Red Bulls celebrate Brian White’s goal. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

HARRISON, N.J. – Two goals within a two-minute span midway through the opening half helped the Red Bulls avoid a play-in match for the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Goals by Tom Barlow and Brian White and some timely saves by Ryan Meara boosted the Red Bulls to a 2-1 win over Toronto FC at Red Bull Arena Sunday.

It was the team’s first victory over a top four side in the Eastern Conference this season, after going 0-5-2 in its first seven contests.

The Red Bulls (9-9-5, 39 points) finished the season in sixth place, avoiding that dreaded play-in game Nov. 20, thanks to the Supporters Shield winners Philadelphia Union (14-4-5, 47) registering a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution. Instead, they will begin the postseason against third-place Columbus Crew SC later this month.

Toronto (13-5-5, 44), which sought the Supporters Shield, finished second in the East.

The Red Bulls helped spoil Toronto FC’s chances of capturing the Supporters Shield.

“We love spoiling the party for them,” Barlow said. “It felt good, obviously there’s a rivalry between the two clubs for the past few years especially, so it felt nice to get the win.

“It’s huge for us. That’s what we wanted to do.”

After getting demolished by New York City FC in the Hudson River Derby last week, the Red Bulls felt they had a lot of prove Sunday.

“Obviously really excited, really stoked about the win tonight,” interim head coach Bradley Carnell said. “We put things on our terms, after a very emotional week, I must say. Losing the game that we did, last game out, last weekend. With a performance like that, I think we all held ourselves accountable and we all wanted this bounce back feeling at all costs.”

And, they got it, especially in the first half.

“I think the players came out tonight and showed up in one of our best first-half performances of this year,” Carnell said.

Barlow headed home the ball from close range past goalkeeper Quintin Westberg for a 1-0 edge in the 24th minute.

The Red Bulls increased their margin to 2-0 as White finished a fine exhibition of quick and precision passing by his teammates at the left post in the 26th minute. Kyle Duncan and Sean Davis received assists. White became the first and only Red Bull to reach five goals this season.

White has found his form lately, which has been translated into much more success for the Red Bulls.

“It’s been a difficult year and to finally get a little bit of a flow going, scoring some goals, it’s perfect timing I think going into playoffs,” he said. “Happy to build off the last couple games and score another one tonight, and hopefully continue against Columbus.”

Toronto sliced the lead in half on Tsubasa Endoh’s well -taken score in the 50th minute.

Meara made his impact not soon after, twice denying the visitors within a minute. First, he made a nifty kick save on Michael Bradley in the 57th minute before stopping Alejandro Pozuelo only a minute later.

“He’s a beast,” Barlow said. “He’s always coming up with the big saves for us. He’s such a good dude. He’s a huge part of our team. He’s a great leader and he’s saved our butts multiple times throughout the season, especially tonight he came up with a couple of huge saves. We just hopefully carry that over into the playoffs.”